Marijuana vs. Prescription Drugs – What the studies show

We will cover the effects of marijuana vs. prescription drugs on your health, safety, and life insurance. We will also include a breakdown of medical or recreational cannabis and how to keep your family financially secure. 

Let’s start. 

Quick Summary

With opioid overdose deaths increasing each year in the United States, doctors and patients alike are looking to alternatives to manage health conditions like chronic pain.

Prescription medications won’t affect your life insurance as much as the health conditions they’re treating. The same holds true for many life insurance companies with medical marijuana patients. However, pharmaceutical drugs or opioid use for recreational purposes (even pain management) can cause life insurance declines and have dangerous side effects.

In places where marijuana products are legal, you have more options from life insurance companies. The medical community also seems to agree that recreational marijuana has fewer adverse effects, particularly low-THC cannabis.

Using cannabis recreationally or for medical purposes? Try the instant quotes tool on this page or call us at (888) 987-8447 for more information.

Medical Marijuana vs. Prescription Drugs

Now that most states have legalized medical marijuana, we’re starting to see studies comparing the pros and cons of medical marijuana vs. prescription drugs. 

Many of these studies focus on opioids and opioid alternatives since overdoses on opioids alone contributed to almost 50,000 deaths each year in the United States before spiking in 2020.

Studies have also found that states that implement medical marijuana laws show an immediate drop in opioid prescriptions. The volume of prescriptions drops further when dispensaries open in the area. 

And, states with legal marijuana report a 25% lower annual death rate from opioids.

The more research there is, particularly on the harmful effects of opioids, it’s clear that we need better alternatives. Cannabis is one such alternative that lets people take control of their pain and circumstances without the risk of chemical addiction. 

Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions

While more research is needed, studies show that medical marijuana (or cannabis as medicine) works well as a replacement for opioids, particularly in managing chronic conditions. 

Most of the time, we see people self-treating, replacing their opioid prescriptions, or getting medical marijuana prescriptions for: 

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Glaucoma
  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiety relief
  • PTSD
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer treatment side effects

What conditions qualify for a medical marijuana card will depend on your state. 

How can Medical Cannabis Affect My Insurance? 

The trick with life insurance is that many companies won’t bat an eye at a medical marijuana card as long as it is used in accordance with a doctor’s recommendation

medical marijuana life insurance

This can create an issue when transitioning between prescription opiate use and cannabis as medicine (CAM). 

A life insurance underwriter will look at the medical condition before assessing the treatment. But they don’t like self-treatment – even if you feel better on the CAM than the opiate. 

Make sure to get documentation from your physician recommending replacing the opioid with CAM, and stick to the recommended dosage and schedule. The insurance company’s primary focus is that patients do what their doctor tells them to manage the condition. 

Depending on the diagnosis, traditional life insurance can be tricky. 

The best way to get a life insurance policy at an affordable rate is to have an upfront conversation with an independent agent. They can sift through the underwriting guidelines of dozens of companies to find the best fit for your family. 

It may be a stop-gap measure, but many carriers respect that medical marijuana can be used effectively as medical treatment. 

Recreational Marijuana vs. Prescription Drugs

As with all recreational activities, understanding the short and long-term effects of substances provides the bare minimum consideration for recreational use

Recreational prescription drug use can land someone in hot water with authorities, even if it’s something as potentially innocuous as using Adderall as a study aid. 

The other major risk to prescription drugs (even in states where cannabis is recreationally legal) is the increase in cutting substances with fentanyl somewhere along the supply chain. 

It doesn’t take much fentanyl to send someone to the hospital – a tragedy that seems to be happening with increasing frequency. 

However, as far as legal recreational drugs go (alcohol, tobacco, cannabis in some states, salvia, etc.), cannabis is the least likely to land you in hot water. 

Alcohol and tobacco have severe long-term health consequences. Alcohol also increases other risks like car wrecks and intimate partner violence. 

We don’t know much about salvia yet, but the biggest risks cannabis presents seem to be Cannabis Use Disorder, increased heart rate, and triggering anxiety in some people. 

How to Get Affordable Life Insurance with Recreational Drug Use

Blood tests and urinalysis both factor into underwriting decisions on a life insurance policy. These happen as part of the life insurance medical exam to confirm that your application reflects reality. 

Life insurance companies get upset with recreational prescription drugs. Most of the time, these trigger an auto-decline, making it difficult to apply with any other company. 

12 life insurance companies permit recreational cannabis use, even at the best rates.

Find more information about which companies and their use frequency here.

If you have recently quit some of your recreational activities, here’s more information on how long common drugs remain detectable in your system via the EMIT test.

Marijuana vs. Prescription Drugs Statistics

presciption drug stats

Since 50,000 Americans die every year from opiate overdose and zero die from a cannabis overdose, it seems pretty clear which is the more dangerous choice. But healthcare is also something to speak with your doctor about. 


The good news is that cannabis has fewer side effects than many prescription medicine options. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment options. The use of prescription drugs for recreational purposes can cause more health concerns than cannabis. 

Plus, in states with medical marijuana dispensaries, opioid overdose rates have dropped dramatically. Previous studies indicate that some of the main reasons people switch to the use of medical cannabis have to do with a significant degree of side effects from opioids.

How Marcan Insurance Can Help

At Marcan, we track which life insurance companies won’t overcharge for recreational cannabis consumption and medical purposes. Our goal is to help families get the best insurance at the lowest price possible – even if they’ve been declined before. 

Call us at (888) 987-8447 today to see how we can help. 

Disclaimer: we are not doctors. Always follow your doctor’s advice for medical diagnosis and treatment options.